Other People’s Stuff Social Enterprise Small Business

Taken at our OPS FNP photo shoot

Frederick News-Post article interviewed us last sunday for OPS!   

by Ed Waters, February 22/23, 2015

Nestled in a small industrial park off Monocacy Boulevard in Frederick, a business is helping people with unwanted items from estate sales and helping a local charity.

“It’s not a consignment shop. We’re not an antiques store,” said Steve Berryman,  a team member in Other People’s Stuff with Laurie Zook.

They operate EstateMax, which coordinates estate sales, generally in a 50-mile radius of Frederick. Zook has helped people downsizing or moving with an estate sale here and traveled as far as Boston to ensure their things are delivered and handled properly.

After an estate sale, there are nearly always items left over that didn’t sell, from furniture to books to glassware and artwork.

“Laurie has a good eye to see what is worth reselling and what we would have given to charity or what we would trash,” Berryman said.

The next sale at Other People’s Stuff is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

A walk through the business reveals vintage furniture and glassware, first-edition books and vinyl records.There is a vintage Daisy BB rifle, a rubber-band-powered BB pistol, an antique martini shaker and even some electronics.

“We don’t want to become an antiques and collectibles museum. We want to move these things,” Berryman said.

From a large rolltop secretary/bookcase to bookcases, china cases, glass-top tables and chairs — so many they are hung on the wall — a tour of the shop shows many items from recent estate sales. A hand-built Scandinavian couch will be in the next sale.

“We have everything in here except enough space,” Berryman said.

“Sometimes, we are just clearing out the house for a client,” Zook said. “Some people call us when they are in a crisis, they just have to get all that stuff out of the house.” It may be for a sale or moving or downsizing.

Time is needed to organize and price the items. “We put a price on an item and if it doesn’t move at one sale, we knock off 50 percent, then down to 30 percent at the next sale,” Zook said. Participants get a coupon worth $10 off at the next sale.

The owners emphasize it is not a typical consignment shop. People cannot bring in items to sell.

Though the sales are scheduled, if a group of shoppers want to come in and see what is in Other People’s Stuff, they can call for an appointment, Zook said. She puts some items online for sale, but said she would rather it stay in the area as many of the items may have local historical or family connections.

“Coming in here has a sort of sense of adventure. You don’t know what you might find,” Berryman said.

Helping Advocates for Homeless Families

As one enters the business, there is a large poster for Advocates for Homeless Families, a Frederick charity that helps families get back on their feet.

“It isn’t just a handout,” Berryman said. “The people have to work, to show commitment and are out of the house in two years.”

A tip jar is on the counter for donations, and those who come to the sale are asked to donate $1.

“It is a great partnership between OPS and Advocates,” said Doug Stone, a member of the charity’s board of directors. “It helps the homeless and the community.”

OPS is committed to helping the charity, providing Advocates with a sustainable base, Stone said.

At every sale, an Advocates volunteer is on hand to greet customers and tell them about the charitable organization.

“We are the first face they see,” Stone said, adding that he has been a volunteer onsite for a sale.

“We ask for a $1 donation, but I am surprised at how many will put in a $20 bill. People are enthusiastic to help,” Stone said. It provides not only the opportunity for the donations, but to educate customers about what Advocates does for the community.

At its two sales so far, Other People’s Stuff donated “a few hundred dollars in the first sale,” Berryman said, and $750 at the second sale.

What started the idea

Zook is from Pennsylvania and has been in estate sales since 1999. She has a background in interior design and commercial management. She once sold BMWs in Hawaii.

“I’ve been helping people organize things for the best part of my life,” Zook said. “A lot of people we help should have done it earlier, organizing, cleaning out the house.”

Berryman is from Rockville and spent 38 years in retail management with Montgomery Ward, Target and Sports Authority. Though much of it was in the East, he worked for a while at the corporate offices of Montgomery Ward.

“We both had the same interests. It was a natural matchup. I had the retail experience and she had her background,” Berryman said.

There is some diversity though. “I’m on the conservative side, and she is on the humanity side,” said Berryman, who wrote a column for The Frederick News-Post for several years and now writes for The Tentacle.

Doing the estate sales and initially giving leftover items to charity or trashing them if the items were not worth keeping, Zook and Berryman decided that choosing the quality items and reselling them would be a good business idea. They chose Advocates for Homeless Families as the charity to help because they admired the nonprofit’s work in the community, they said.


Note: O.P.S. is interviewing non profits based in Frederick County to work with for 2016. In 2015 we have raised over $7000 for Advocates for Homeless Families through public dollar at a time donations at our sales events, our matching funds and contributions.

One thought on “Other People’s Stuff Social Enterprise Small Business

  1. Pingback: Other People – Colecty.com

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